Economic and Social Rights Academic Network: United Kingdom & Ireland - Summer 2021

  • Luke Graham (Speaker)

Activity: Participating in or organising an eventParticipation in conference


Exploring the CESCR’s Engagement with the Right to Clothing: Shaping the Contours of a ‘Forgotten’ Right
Despite inclusion within several international instruments, most prominently the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), the right to clothing has been labelled a forgotten right. The aims of this paper are two-fold. Firstly, to reassert the right to clothing and, secondly, to contribute to shaping the contours of this forgotten right. Through examining the practice of the body responsible for monitoring the implementation of the ICESCR -– the United Nation’s Committee on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (CESCR) – I explore the validity of prescribing the right to clothing a forgotten status. Based on a key-term search of all CESCR Annual Reports, Concluding Observations, General Comments, Statements, and Jurisprudence (in which views were adopted) I analyse the CESCR’s interactions with the right to clothing. This paper demonstrates that the CESCR’s practice is extremely limited with respect to the right to clothing and this in turn evidences, and contributes to, the forgotten status of the right to clothing. However, I also highlight and examine the CECSR’s engagement with the concept of clothing more generally in its treatment of other rights and themes. I observe that whilst failing to substantively engage with the right to clothing, the CESCR has engaged with clothing alongside the right to take part in cultural life, the right to education, the right to work, the right to social security, the right to water, and in the context of immigration conditions. I argue that the CESCR’s inclusion of clothing in its engagement with these issues evidences the need to reassert the right to clothing. More importantly from the perspective of the right to clothing’s forgotten status, I argue that the CESCR’s treatment of the clothing – as distinct to the CESCR’s treatment of the right to clothing – serves to illuminate and shape the contours of the right. Drawing on the field of Clothing & Textiles Studies, I propose a tri-partite typology of clothing purposes as a lens through which to explore clothing as a right. I demonstrate that the CESCR’s engagement with clothing to date may be categorised using this proposed understanding of clothing. Under the broad umbrella of protection, clothing may be understood as serving to protect the wearer’s physical well-being, to protect the wearer’s mental well-being, and/or to protect the wearer’s social well-being. I conclude that this typology of clothing purposes can be used as a tool by which to shape the contours of the forgotten right to clothing. This approach can bring clarity to the specific rights and corresponding obligations pertaining to the right to clothing.
Period18 Jun 2021
Event typeConference
LocationGalway, IrelandShow on map
Degree of RecognitionNational